According to a recent analysis, after two years with significantly lower levels, strep infection rates in the US are on the rise again this season.
In February, the number of visits to the health care system for strep or other related diagnoses was almost 30% higher than the previous high in 2017. According to the Epic Health Research Network, preliminary data from early March show a continuing upward trend. These findings are based upon electronic health records of thousands of clinics, hospitals and more than 100,000,000 people in the United States.
Many types of infections can be caused by Group A Streptococcus bacteria. Some infections, such as strep and scarlet fever can be mild, and treated with antibiotics. In December, however, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it was investigating a possible increase in group A strep infections. These infections can lead to more serious and rare infections. Amoxicillin liquid, the antibiotic that is most commonly used to treat group a strep infections, is also in short supply in the US.
According to the CDC, strep is more common in children aged 5-15. Season usually runs from December to April with a peak occurring in February.
According to the latest analysis, children aged 4-8 are most likely to be diagnosed with strep. This group's share of strep-related visits to the health care system usually remains below 5% during the peak season in February, but it spiked this year to over 8%.
The trend was similar for all age groups, regardless of race, geography, or socioeconomic status.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the prevention measures that were taken probably contributed to keeping strep levels low over the last two years.
The CDC said that it is still too early to characterize the current season, as we are in the middle. Although invasive group A activity has increased, "infections are still rare, particularly in children."